Grottes de Perrier

Useful Information

Location: Above Perrier, Puy de Dôme.
Open: No restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SubterraneaCave House
Light: bring torch
Guided tours: self guided, D=1 h.
Address: Grottes de Perrier, Issoire Office de Tourisme, Place du General de Gaulle, BP 08, 63501 Issoire, Tel: +33-473-891590.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1403 Tour de Maurifolet sold by Morin Folet.
1789 description of the city in the book Coup d'œil sur l'Auvergne by Bouvier des Mortiers.
APR-1997 L'Association pour la Sauvegarde du Patrimoine de Perrier (ASPP) founded.
1997 beginning of renovation.


The Grottes de Perrier (Caves of Perrier) are a series of cave dwellings cut into the cliff face of a volcanic rock. This city of cvae houses was once called Roches (rock). How old the caves actually are is unknown, locals are convinced it was created in the Celtic time, which means more than 2,000 years ago, before the Romans came to France. The first written mention on the other hand is from 1403, when the fire tower, part of the defensive system of the village, was sold by Morin Folet, seigneur de Tourzel. It is today known as the Tour de Maurifolet, the name of the former owner survived almost unharmed. A more detailed description of the village, while it was still in use, is published in the book Coup d'œil sur l'Auvergne by Bouvier des Mortiers from 1789.

According to the parish register from 1585, several hundred Perriérois lived in caves at this time. This changed with the great plague, the pestilence, in 1630, wher many people died. During the 19th century some 17 families lived in the cave dwelling, one after the other moved away and after World War II only six families still lived here. There are about 300 caves to be found until today.

The rocks of the area were formed by the stratovolcano Monts Dore between two million years and 400,000 years ago. They are actually not the result of eruptions or lava flows, but of the erosion of those lava flows. The mud and debris avalanches filled a valley and formed a thick stack of so-called lahars. This material is a popular rock for constructing buildings, it is a light rock which is easily worked, but very brittle after it was exposed to the elements for some time. The mud flows are once interrupted by a 20 m thick layer of fluvial sediments, formed by an ancient predecessor of the Allier river. This sequence starts with a layer of limnic marl and limestone with many fossilized snails. The rest of the fluvial sediments is actually sand and pepples forming sandstone.

To visit the caves it is best to park at the place du Mezel and walk through the rue de la Poste and the rue des Grottes. Once in the city, there is a trail marked with green arrows. The site was renovated and now preserved by the Association pour la Sauvegarde du Patrimoine de Perrier (ASPP), the Association for Heritage Preservation of Perrier. It is a non-profit organization of a small number of volunteers working for the preservation of the site. Although the site is now more or less renovated, there is always work to do, and as far as we understand the renovation is an ongoing process.